MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)
Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.
The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.
The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.
“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”
Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.
“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.
Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.
Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.
“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”
McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.
“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”
Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.
“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.
“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.
Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.
Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.
“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”
FORT GIBSON, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields, 17, a senior at Fort Gibson High School, recently attended the Youth Summit Planning Council, or Raliance, on July 13-14 in Washington, D.C.
Fields said Raliance works to “end gender-based violence in one generation.”
She said during the summit she and others worked to plan a youth summit for March in Washington, D.C.
“We are apart of the committee that is planning a youth summit for high-school age, like kids my age, and it has three different tracks, which is violence in sports, media and policy change,” she said. “I’m on the subcommittee for the media. I’m the one who’s kind of in charge of helping to recruit other Native high schoolers.”
Fields said the planning council has presented its ideas for the summit.
“Basically we were all kind of coming together and laying out like the groundwork,” she said. “What all we’re going to be teaching, how we’re going to be recruiting everybody.”
Fields said although she was the only Native at the summit, she hopes to recruit others, especially from her community.
“I was the only Native there, so they relied very heavily on me especially for the recruitment of other Natives,” she said. “I just really hope that I will be able to bring in a lot of Native children, especially those from Cherokee Nation, as I believe this is something not just our Nation but tribal nations need to learn about.”
She said it’s vital to inform Natives about the amount of violence, whether it is sexual or domestic, in their communities.
“I think it’s a really big deal because Natives actually have the highest rates of gender-based violence. Sexual assault for men and women are the highest out of any other minority,” she said. “We also have some of the highest rates of domestic abuse. So this is a conversation we need to be in.”
Fields said this platform is important because it spreads sexual assault and domestic violence awareness to others.
“I believe this is important especially for youth because high school-aged teenagers…usually that’s when the patterns of sexual violence start showing. It’s when you’re more likely to get targeted is when you are in high school,” she said. “So it’s going to bring awareness to those kids for what they need to watch out for.”
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Still recovering from damaging wind and a rainstorm in December, Bacone College recently suffered another blow to its campus and is looking for donations to help cover repair costs.
According to a press release, college officials seek monetary donations so they can repair a dormitory and cafeteria that a small tornado damaged on July 14. The release states the storm ripped off the dorm’s roof displacing about 100 students and effectively closing the cafeteria.
Online donations can be made at <a href="http://www.bacone.edu" target="_blank">www.bacone.edu</a>. To mail in donations, send to Bacone College, Office of Development, 2299 Old Bacone Road, Muskogee, OK 74403.
To volunteer to help with repairs, call Pat Spinks at 918-781-7216 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior on July 20 announced that the quarter’s transfer of nearly $500,000 to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund brings the total amount contributed so far close to $40 million.
The Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance through scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training.
Funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, the scholarship program is overseen by the Cobell board of trustees and administered by Indigenous Education Inc., a non-profit corporation created to administer the scholarship fund.
So far approximately $2.2 million has been awarded in graduate and undergraduate scholarships to qualified American Indian students.
Based on data gathered by Indigenous Education, the most recent Cobell scholars include 404 undergraduate students and 64 graduate students representing 89 federally recognized tribes. Applications and information concerning scholarships for the academic year 2017-18 can be found at <a href="http://www.cobellscholar.org" target="_blank">www.cobellscholar.org</a>.
“With every new contribution, the scholarship fund will enable increasing numbers of Native American students across Indian Country to gain the advanced education and training that will help them meet the leadership challenges of the 21st century,” Interior Solicitor Hilary Tompkins, a Navajo Nation citizen who negotiated the Cobell settlement on behalf of the Interior, said. “They are pursuing their dreams, opening doors to new opportunities, preparing themselves for leadership and advancing self-determination for their communities all thanks to the vision of Elouise Cobell, whose life and legacy inspires and guides this noble initiative.”
Cobell board of trustees Chairman Alex Pearl said: “The latest distribution aids our mission of carrying out the vision of Elouise Cobell to enhance educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaskan Native students. With the beginning of the new school year, we are excited to continue awarding the talented students in Indian Country. Our board understands the financial aid needs in Indian Country are enormous. These transfers provide an important foundation from which to positively impact Native students. We remain committed to creating a uniquely tuned scholarship program attentive to the needs and issues of Native students.”
The Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the Cobell settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing landowners. Consolidated interests are transferred to tribal government ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal citizens.
The Interior makes quarterly transfers to the scholarship fund as a result of the program’s land sales, up to a total of $60 million. The amount the Interior contributes is based on a formula set forth in the settlement that sets aside a certain amount of funding depending on the value of the fractionated interests sold. These contributions do not reduce the amount that an owner will receive.
Since December 2013, more than $760 million has been paid to individual landowners and more than 1.5 million acres have been transferred to tribal governments.
Participation in the Buy-Back Program is voluntary. Landowners can call the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 1-888-678-6836 or visit a local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians to inquire about their land or purchase offers and learn about financial planning resources. More information and detailed frequently asked questions are available at <a href="https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ" target="_blank">https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ</a>.
For more information on the Cobell scholarships, go to <a href="http://cobellscholar.org" target="_blank">http://cobellscholar.org</a>.
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center-sponsored Cherokee Humanities Course is taking applications until Aug. 9 for the fall academic semester at Northeastern State University.
Through a grant from the Inasmuch Foundation, the CHC is providing tuition, books, child care and transportation at no cost to qualified students. Students may take the course in the fall and spring semesters for a total of six college credit hours in Cherokee studies. Priority is given to nontraditional Cherokee students not currently enrolled in a university and those considering returning to college.
The late Dr. Howard Meredith, a former professor and head of the American Indian Studies degree program at the University of Science and Arts, established the course that replicates the original Clemente course offered in New York City by academic scholar Dr. Earl Shorris in 1995.
It is designed to bring to light ideas and experiences that have remained quiet in general history books and creates a collaborative learning environment in which personal experiences and oral traditions are respected. These are interdisciplinary, college-level humanities courses offering credit hours through NSU. The classes are primarily held in the Osiyo Training Room behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees on the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah.
For more information, call Tonia Weavel at 918-456-6007 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen LaNice Belcher, 18, recently graduated from Tahlequah High School and will attend Oklahoma City University this fall on several scholarships that provide her a “full-tuition waiver.”
Belcher said she received a $110,000 tuition wavier after auditioning for the university’s Wanda L. Bass School of Music. She said she also received a $25,000 OCU Presidential Scholarship.
“The thing was I was also academically strong, so they had to dial back my music scholarship because they wanted it to be known that…I had received the Presidential Scholarship. Otherwise, I have a full-tuition waiver for the school,” she said.
Belcher also received a Cherokee Nation Foundation scholarship. “I also have several of the Cherokee Nation scholarships and other Native American scholarships.”
While attending OCU, Belcher said she would play bassoon and other woodwind instruments. She said she also has an emphasis on piano and will be learning the fundamentals of percussion and brass.
Belcher said she would be auditioning for the orchestra in August, as well as several operas and musicals.
“They have about two operas and a few musicals every semester, so hopefully I’ll get to be in those pit orchestras,” she said.
Belcher said she’s had an interest in performing in orchestra pits since she was a freshman at THS.
“I had the opportunity at NSU (Northeastern State University) to play in ‘The Magic Flute,’ and so for me opera is a very large part of why I want to go to OCU because they are extremely known for their arts and their musical theater program,” she said.
During her first semester she said she would be teaching at the music-based, after-school program El Sistema in Oklahoma City.
“I’ll be teaching second and fourth year student’s music fundamentals. So I’ll already be a teacher making money,” she said. Belcher added that the opportunity to teach helps with her goal of being the band director at Sequoyah High School. “That is the overall dream, overall goal.”
Belcher said she hopes to see success in her musical career so she can show that Cherokees go out and “make things happen.”
“For me, it’s getting the stereotype out there that we (Cherokees) don’t just stay here,” she said. “We go out, we make things happen and we’re not just sitting ducks.”
What is a Student Spotlight?
A Student Spotlight is a 200-to-400-word feature on a Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen who is a student, whether they are in grades kindergarten through 12 or higher education, either excelling in school or doing something out of the ordinary.
How do I recommend a student for the Student Spotlight series?
To recommend a student, email email@example.com with the student’s name, contact information and a brief summary of why he or she should be chosen.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With Oklahoma public schools facing massive budget cuts next fiscal year, Lee Ann Reeves, a Cherokee Nation citizen who teaches seventh and eighth grade language arts at Oklahoma Union, said she appreciated the chance to earn free professional development hours at the tribe’s Teachers of Successful Students conference June 7-8 at Northeastern State University.
“At our school we offer our own professional development for us to get our hours, but a lot of teachers go outside of that to get enrichment,” Reeves said. “When the schools see something that is free they are all for you going.”
Reeves said being a teacher at a school with Cherokee students she wanted to get more information on how to be a better teacher and how to incorporate more strategies in the classroom.
“We have a lot of kids who have tribal cards that go to our school, and so I want to better inform them of some of the Cherokee Nation offerings,” she said. “It shows me different strategies I can use to reach the students who may need a little different way to reach them, strategies I haven’t seen before, I haven’t used, from my instructors as well as other teachers who are in the classroom with me.”
Now in its fourth year, the TOSS conference offers professional development workshops for teachers at public schools located in the tribe’s jurisdiction. The tribe’s Education Services held the conference for at least 150 teachers at NSU’s University Center.
Dr. Gloria Sly, Education Services education liaison, said the initiative is provided through the tribe’s Motor Vehicle Tax funding so that public schoolteachers can focus on areas where schools receive failing grades from the Oklahoma Department of Education.
“It was based on the public schools’ need to have professional development in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas because that’s where a lot of them were really failing or receiving F’s, and so we thought we could assist the public schoolteachers and make it accessible to them in this 14-county area because our little schools have just taken cuts and taken cuts, and it’s harder for them to pay for their teachers to go to attend a professional development,” Sly said.
She said the conference also focused on reading and had 79 workshops for five school groups: early childhood, elementary, middle school, junior high and high school. The workshops varied in length from 45 minutes to two hours, and the conference was completely self-contained for convenience, Sly said.
“We keep them self-contained in this building from beginning to end because one year we tried it where they would have to go to another building for a workshop, and all those that traveled back and forth got lost. We ended up with a very small population at the end of the day. So now we keep them in one building,” she said.
Sly added that the tribe pays for housing so teachers who have to drive longer distances don’t have to leave town or pay for hotel rooms.
“We pay for housing for those that come from up north like Nowata, Bluejacket. They come down here and they stay in seminary suites. We pay for that. Northeastern is a partner. As a partner they give us a very good rate. So they’ll come in Tuesday night, the night before, and be here and leave the last day,” she said.
Carrie Steele, a CN citizen and math teacher at Kansas High School, said she appreciated that the conference was free and a short drive for her.
“There is hardly any free training anymore and especially close to home. We always have to go to Tulsa or Oklahoma City. Tahlequah is a great place to have a meeting,” Steele said.
Sly said many teachers get most, if not all, of their professional development for the whole year at the conference.
“Because they have to have 15 hours of professional development, we have 15, 16 hours here,” she said. “What it all boils down to is the achievement of a lot of Cherokee students. We want them to have the best education they can. In order to have the best education they have to have the best teachers. In order to help those teachers to be able to reach our students we do this.”
Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said with the TOSS conference the tribe has assumed a role in giving teachers better tools to teach Cherokee youth.
“As we prepare our citizens for a growing global economy, it’s critical to have a strong academic foundation. TOSS is a unique gathering because it is a chance to share what truly works in classrooms as we try to better engage kids and spark that interest in lifelong learning,” he said.